Booking Your Los Angeles Wedding Venue: A Comprehensive & Transparent Guide, With Must-Ask Questions

Walking into the grand adventure of marriage often starts with one massive leap – choosing the ideal space to say “I do”. 🎉 But hey, before you get starry-eyed at the first venue that gives you the warm and fuzzies, it’s crucial to get down with so much knitty-gritty awesomeness to help you make the most informed decision possible, too. 

Why? Because you not only want a magical location but also a celebration that matches the experience that you want to have. That way, you can focus on, well, being over-the-moon in love when the day actually arrives, without feeling forced to choose things you don’t want later down the line, or feel weighed down by the constraints throughout the planning process.

This guide is incredibly in-depth, as we will transparently discuss:

  • Atmosphere & vibes
  • Peak Season vs Off-Season, and how this impacts package pricing
  • Rentals, day-of options for getting ready and event breakdown
  • Parking Logistics, what the venue may recommend
  • Minimum and maximum guest counts, impacting where you may book
  • The guest experience: eating, drinking, being merry
  • The all-important Plan B/ “rainy day” backup location (note: it’s essential)
  • Discovering if a venue has required, partnered, recommend but optional, and “pay -to-play” wedding vendors
  • Guest parking & transportation options, plus potential venue recommendations

Before We Dive In

Each section will include some really important questions that you definitely can ask – I say this, because some are going to seem really direct (because they are). Know that as you read along, you can absolutely put a great list of these comprehensive questions together, as you begin viewing venue’s from their website, to inquiring, looking online at packages, to booking tours. 

My personal take? You are investing your hard-earned money into one of the biggest days of your lives together, and you deserve to have the ability to make the most informed decision about one of the things that truly impacts your wedding planning and wedding-day experience, hands down.

Are you and your babe ready to nail down the place where you both celebrate and gather in one place, with the people that matter most? If your hearts are nodding (we bet they are!), stride along as we dish out the must-ask questions that’ll keep those potential wedding day wrinkles at bay, so future you on your wedding day will thank you.

The Atmosphere = Everything

Peep out those vibes! The environment speaks volumes and can spruce up what’s already a sensational day. If you tour the venue and instantly feel excited about spending so much time within the space, and truly feel it’s going to elevate the vibes you’re hoping for the experience- that’s a really great start. But what if it doesn’t? Does the place feel outdated, or dilapidated?Keep some of those things in check as you wander the grounds, because that can tell you right away how well the place keeps up.

Something important to note: try to view your venue around the time that you and your partner are looking to get married! It may give a really good sense of how well the venue speaks for itself, versus potentially needing to invest in decor and florals to spruce up the space if the grounds is feeling lackluster, but still a top contender.

Dream about those elegant “getting ready” suites – how important is that to you to have a dedicated space to get ready, and what tends to make you feel more comfortable whenever you get ready for something important? How important is it for you and your fiancee to have an easy morning that transitions seamlessly into the afternoon to have your ceremony? What are you looking forward to when it comes to your cocktail hour experience, and how can the settings nd potential for setup contribute to this experience?

Same goes for your reception- how is that space laid out? For the number of people you might envision attending, will they all be seated comfortably during dinner, and have a fun flow that easily leads to getting down when the dancefloor opens at reception? You’ll want to find out how easy it is for your guests to experience everything, find things they are seeking out easily, without feeling like they are being taken away from anything exciting once the festivities begin and the dancefloor opens.

Some questions to consider asking on the venue tour around this topic:

  • How long has this venue been around? What’s the history, here?
  • What kinds of couples do you find love booking with you?
  • What time of the year is it most beautiful on the grounds?
  • Getting Ready suite: do you have one for each person in the couple? What does the/each space come with, in terms of amenities?
  • Do we need to bring food/ beverages for the morning onsite via wedding party/ delivery, or are breakfast/ drinks/ snacks/ champagne included within a given package?
  • What spaces allow for things like photo booths, bar carts, dessert stands, and how close can these types of things be to where people are standing and socializing throughout the evening, after ceremony?

Peak vs Off-Season, Packages & Pricing

Depending on what time of the year you are looking to get married, that may impact availability, and additionally, the cost to book your venue.

An important factor you may want to consider in your decision-making is if there are any packages during peak season, and off-season for your particular venue options.

Lastly, for this: You’ll want to think about whether or not the season is a variable, what’s included within each given package for peak and off season packages. With different venues, the possibilities are endless! they will specify whether or not they include chair/ table/ bar rentals, decor, archways/ ceremony decor, partnered vendors, optional or preferred vendors (which we’ll also dive into more!), and catering. Often times, catering companies tend to join forces at certain venues! Regardless, you’ll want to have the venue specify what’s included, versus what is not, for any given venue package.

Some important questions to ask around this:

  • What’s included in your off-season versus on/ peak season packages for getting married at this venue?
  • With any given package, how long will we have the venue for, on the day of the wedding?
  • Do you offer overnight stay for the night before/ rehearsal dinner?
  • Do you offer overnight stay for the night of the wedding?
  • Is catering included with any given package offered?
  • What vendors are required if we book with this venue, or with specific packages?
  • (Arguably most important): Why do you consider certain times of the year peak season, and others off-season? Any reasons outside of the weather?
  • What amenities are included within each designated space? Which are not?
  • Are there chairs/seating, ceremony decor, and/or table/dining rentals that are available? If they are available, are they included within a given venue package, or is there an additional cost to include any available venue rentals for chairs/ tables/ archways?

Day-of Logistics đź’Ľ What is and Is Not Possible

When can your glam squad pop by to start dolloping on that highlighter and hair spray? You’ll need the deets on arrival times, plus cosy nooks for both halves of your dynamic duo to prep without a catch. Some venue spaces, depending on the venue and the package you book with them for your wedding day, allow you to come in the early morning to start hair and makeup styling, while others only allow you to come within an hour or so before ceremony. Depending on how expansive the venue’s grounds are, you may be forced to bring all of your belonging from one location to another throughout the day.

Some important questions to ask around this:

  • What time do you allow your couples/ wedding party/ vendors to arrive onsite for the day of the wedding?
  • Do you allow vendors or wedding party to arrive the day before to unload rentals, etc? (Note: SUPER important for destination couples to ask this!)
  • What time do all vendors/ guests need to be fully out of the venue by (including rentals, florals, photo & video team, dj)? This will impact when your reception may end, and when things will need to break down.
  • Does your venue space “flip” between cocktail hour and reception, or do you have indoor and outdoor dedicated spaces for each section of the wedding day?
  • Do you have one or two “getting ready” suites/ areas onsite?

Projected Guest Count Range & Venue Policies

Before booking a tour, you and your partner will want to decide on the ideal guest count you both are wanting to ideally have. Creating a range will help you begin picking places to research and decide on before potentially booking a tour!

Your projected guest count range will really impact where you are able to host and celebrate your wedding day. Each venue has a minimum and maximum capacity at a given location, for many different reasons, based on what they can provide onsite and within their local city/area.

Scope out the min-max numbers to keep things on track for your wedding planning journey, in the short term and definitely within the long term, too!

Also, once you do become more serious about a venue, before or after you tour- you’ll want to flip through their playbook—those venue policies—well before signing, and then play within the bounds after you’ve done so.

If you don’t- because you either invite people and have an RSVP that exceeds their maximum, bring hard liquor at a place that only allows beer & wine, or bring items (even something as simple as sparklers) that light fire that are not allowed, you could be fined per violation, and/or potentially lose your entire deposit on the space, depending on the venue’s policies!

Understand the Layout for Guest Experience

This one’s about ease and flow for your guests throughout your wedding day. How easy or difficult is it for folks to go back and forth to the restroom and cocktail hour/ reception areas? Will they feel taken away from all of the action, or seamlessly leave and come back easily to what’s happening?

Questions to ask:

  • Where are your bathrooms located for guests during cocktail hour, dinner service, and reception?
  • Do we have to rent temporary restrooms and bring them in from off site?
  • Where can bartenders set up and move to before the ceremony/ during and after cocktail hour / before and during reception? How many stations are we permitted to set up?
  • What kinds of alcohol can be served at the venue (hard alcohol, beer, wine, spirits/ liquor, etc)?

Bar Service, Drinking Possibilities

And that bar service— the last thing we want is for long lines that make getting a drink take away from potential d-floor opportunities and more!

You’ll definitely want to make sure the drink service queue stays light and super manageable, so glasses stay full, toasts remain audible, and spirits high to get back on the dance floor or to mingle at tables!

Lastly, you’ll want to find out if an open bar is even a possibility at the venue you’re heavily considering, along with fun signature drinks with certain types of alcohol you’re keen on. Some venues absolutely do not allow open bar, or they do not allow certain types of alcohol- so if anything that involves drinking during your celebration is more top-of-mind, definitely double check on these details!

Questions to ask:

  • Where can bartenders set up and move to before the ceremony/ during and after cocktail hour / before and during reception? How many stations are we permitted to set up?
  • What kinds of alcohol can be served at the venue (hard alcohol, beer, wine, spirits/ liquor, etc)?

The All-Important, “Rainy Day” / Plan B Options

Rain or shine, your love’s going to be celebrated, supported, and be absolutely beautiful to capture. But real talk—with unpredictable weather, having an ace up your sleeve (like an indoor spot or a covered space that you still feel incredible about getting married in) means your celebration isn’t subject to the elements.

For anyone who’s been living in Los Angeles the last year or so, we can confidently say that the weather has been more unpredictable with rain, more than not these days- with rain in the forecast as late as July and sometimes even August. So, having a “rainy-day” option is something future you will be relieved to know is taken care of, if you ask about it with each venue tour.

Questions to ask, here:

  • Do you have a “Plan B” / backup ceremony space? What are our options here?
  • Do you provide rain coverage for any space- ceremony, cocktail hour, or reception? Are there additional fees?
  • Where can different events take place, in the event it does rain on my wedding day?
  • If you only have outdoor spaces available, do you provide additional, set-up coverage?
  • If you do not provide tent/ alternative coverage, do you have vendors that you would recommend, or measurements that we can use for the space? OR
  • If you do not provide tent/ alternative coverage, do you have a process from past clients that’s been successful, and a starting cost for this?

Vendor Vibes – Choices Matter

Picking who sets the mood—from beats to bouquets—is huge. Yuo’ll want to find out which vendors are included within any given package that the vendor offers- which ones are required in order to book with the venue, are optional, recommended, or whether or not the vendors partnered with the venue “pay-to-play.”

Often times, I tend to see a lot of venues throughout Los Angeles, South Bay, Orange County, and San Diego require a catering service, and may even require a type of dinner experience (plated, buffet, etc). Sometimes, venues require a day-of wedding event coordinator at the minimum, whether part of the venue or from one of their independent vendor lists- which is honestly so essential and great to see that those venues value a more seamless, organized flow for the day than not.

If you’re looking to go with any outside vendor(s) that you’ve had in mind, you’ll want to find out if there are any fees for going this direction!

Questions to ask:

  • Which vendors are required with this package/ are they required with any package?
  • Which vendors come with the venue, and are considered mandatory to book with/ in partnership with?
  • Do you have a “preferred vendor list”? If so, how does your recruitment process work for these vendors? 
  • If you have a “required/preferred” vendor list- Do they pay to be on this list? How does this work?

Day-of Dynamics: Private Event vs Open to the Public?

On the big day, will the venue be buzzing with public guests, or is it just going to be your squad? Certain venues, especially wineries and places that operate primarily as dining spaces or libraries and non-profit gardens sprinkled throughout Los Angeles, may operate with hours that are open to the public on your wedding day. Is that going to dampen the vibes for you? I can confidently say as a photographer, that can impact where and how we can or can’t produce photos.

Also- you’ll want to find out how available will the onsite staff be. Past couples have found that a point person through the planning process may become unavailable if there are venue tours that they schedule on your wedding day, or ceremony rehearsals.

Clarify if a venue coordinator will step into the conductor’s shoes or if you need a day-of coordinator of your own. My personal recommendation- hire a wedding-dedicated day-of coordinator that becomes involved 1-3 months out, and takes over the coordination and communication with the venue, as well as vendors! That will allow you to have an onsite person that is fully dedicated to making sure that your wedding day is running smoothly, without prioritizing future couples or random guests.

Questions to ask:

  • On my wedding day, as clients, does my wedding party, my fiancee and I have full, private access to the venue, or do we share this with the public?
  • If we do not want to share the space with others, is there an option to request private event access only? Are there additional fees with this?
  • If we share the space with the public: what spaces do we share, and for how long? Is it until ceremony, or all-day?
  • How does your onsite staff operate on the wedding-day? Do they have other responsibilities dedicated to other potential clients, and the public?

Insurance Insights

Don’t sleep on this—get the scoop on the liability insurance. It’s a safety net for you, your guests, and your chosen vendors. You’ll want to find out specifically what the venue covers, versus what they expect you and/or your vendors to be responsible for.

A huge green flag? Definitely ask all of your vendors if they have their own business license, if that is covered within Los Angeles/ California, and if they are insured. If they do, that will be important, and is great housekeeping on you!

Additionally, ask each vendor if they are willing to submit what’s called a Certificate of Additional Insured- which will be important for the venue to obtain before any given vendor usually arrives onsite. Otherwise, hiring a wedding event coordinator can spearhead this for you!

Bonus: For anything, literally anything that you don’t feel easy about- consider getting wedding insurance. You never know what can happen within the wedding-planning process and beyond through the wedding day, and this could bring absolute peace of mind in case something unthinkable happens!

Nailing the Local Parking & Guest Transportation Experience

Whether or not you’re a Los Angeles local or consider the city of angels as your destination wedding, parking anywhere can become a hassle really quickly. It’s 110% a thing here, and preparing for it is so important!

You’ll want to find out if parking is available onsite, or if it allows for different types of transportation like shuttle or bus drop-offs/pickup, or if the venue recommends taxi/ Uber/ Lyft rides in groups with potential wedding-day discount codes, depending on the location.

Whether you’re getting married in the hills at a Hollywood mansion, going coastal at a private estate overlooking the Pacific in Malibu, or keeping it trendy and funky at an up-and-coming warehouse in DTLA, getting guests to and from the venue will be super important to understand what is and isn’t possible.

Questions to ask:

  • When do you allow vendors to arrive onsite to begin preparing florals, ceremony/ reception/ dining/ table/ chair rentals, bar setup?
  • What parking options are available for our vendors (photo/ video, dj, catering, etc)
  • What parking options are available for our guests? What’s the easiest/ best way for our guests to arrive comfortably and safely (note: especially im

Wrapping It Up

Remember, you’re planting the seeds for a legacy moment – the more things you consider in an advance- way less course correcting you’ll have to do later down the line, when you truly get into the thick of wedding planning. You’ll avoid having to make tougher decisions with a much more informed decision!

It’s more than snapping up a venue; it’s about living out a wondrous chapter in your storytale. Savvy couples like you are wise to turn every stone and inquire like investigative reporters to secure not just a place but an experience—one filled with joy, ease, and elevated awesomeness.

Craving more wedding wisdom and deets? While I’m an organized, detail-driven person at heart- I’m primarily a wedding photographer that really values and advocates for my couples to have the most epic wedding-day experience of their lives, so we can capture everything as it’s unfolding in the coolest way.

You’re investing your hard-earned money into this, so you deserve to get everything you want out of it. If you love the idea of working with me after you book your Los Angeles wedding venue, hire local and inquire with me directly by clicking here. Looking forward to hearing from you!

April 9, 2024

Julianne Shearer

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